President Trump’s quest to reign in the millions of supposed illegal voters has hit a snag. Nathan Rousseau Smith (@fantasticmrnate) reports.
States aren’t embracing President Trump’s voter fraud panel with the same enthusiasm he had when he announced it. An analysis found nearly all states and Washington, D.C., have denied the president’s commission in one way or another.
The commission requested voter data from states last week. But the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has been stymied by some state officials who flat-out refused to hand over the information while others said they could fulfill just part of the request.
On Wednesday, the commission’s vice chairman Kris Kobach took umbrage with news accounts of states rejecting the request.
“While there are news reports that 44 states have ‘refused’ to provide voter information to the Commission, these reports are patently false, more ‘fake news,'” said Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state, in a statement. “At present, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have refused the Commission’s request for publicly available voter information.”
While the commission did request only publicly available data, the hang up for many states was the request for voter personal information such as birth dates, driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers.
Trump created the commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, by executive order in May. Trump lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton in November by about 2.9 million votes. He’s said without evidence that he would have won the popular vote had “millions of people” not have voted illegally. All of the fraudulent voters, he claimed, cast ballots for Clinton.
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
Members of both parties have disputed Trump’s claim as well as Thomas Hicks, the former chairman of the federal Election Assistance Commission.
In a Saturday morning tweet, the president slammed states rebuffing his request.
Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2017
Just three states — Florida, Nebraska and Illinois — have not publicly announced how they’d respond to the request. Here are the different ways the other 47 states and the District of Columbia have responded to the commission:
Secretary of State John H. Merrill said his office will only share already public information with the commission. He told AL.com he wasn’t sure the state would provide everything the commission requested.
“The Secretary of State’s Office will comply with the request if we are convinced that the overall effort will produce the necessary results to accomplish the Commission’s stated goal without compromising the integrity of the voter rolls and the elections process in Alabama,” Merrill said in a statement.
Alaska said in a statement it would not release confidential information such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and addresses. Alaska state law allows for voter histories, voter status and names to be released, among other information.
Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan flat-out rejected the request, saying it isn’t in the state’s best interest. However, she did say she’d give a less-detailed version of the documents. “I share the concerns of many Arizonans that the Commission’s request could implicate serious privacy concerns,” she said Monday
Arkansas will fulfill the commission’s request in part. Chris Powell, spokesman for Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin, said privacy restrictions will keep the state from turning over Social Security and driver’s license numbers as well as felony convictions, military status and registrations in other states. He said the state will hand over other public information included on voter registration forms and voting history dating back to 2008.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla had strong words for the commission and Trump. Padilla said the president made the voting fraud claims because he lost the popular vote.
“I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally,” Padilla said in a statement. “California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach. The President’s Commission is a waste of taxpayer money and a distraction from the real threats to the integrity of our elections today: aging voting systems and documented Russian interference in our elections.”
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams praised the commission’s work, but said the state would only release public information and not that which is confidential. “We are very glad they are asking for information before making decisions,” he said. “I wish more federal agencies would ask folks for their opinion and for information before they made decisions.”
Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill said she lacks confidence in the commission, but said the state would hand over publicly available voter information.
She also slammed Kobach’s record and made a public records request of her own. “In the same spirit of transparency, we will request that the Commission share any memos, meeting minutes or additional information as state officials have not been told precisely what the Commission is looking for,” she said in a statement. “This lack of openness is all the more concerning, considering that the Vice Chair of the Commission, Kris Kobach, has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas.”
The commission is taking heat in the president’s own backyard. “Its request for voter information, such as Social Security numbers, serves no legitimate purpose and only raises questions on its intent,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said. “I will join leaders of states around the country and work with our partners on the Council to protect residents from this intrusion.”
Delaware said it will not honor the commission’s request. State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove said it, “would not be in the best interests of Delaware voters.”
“Delaware has a long history of running fair and efficient elections open to all qualified voters. We should not be a part of any effort to turn back the clock on the progress we have made,” said Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock. “Delaware will not be a party to this disingenuous and inappropriate campaign against one of the nation’s foundational institutions.”
“The Georgia Secretary of State’s office will provide the publicly available voter list. As specified in Georgia law, the public list does not contain a registered voter’s driver’s license number, Social Security number, month and day of birth, site of voter registration, phone number or email address.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the state is asking the commission pay an upfront $250 standard fee for the records.
Hawaii Gov. David Y. Ige said the state hasn’t received the request, but said, “based on what I know so far, I don’t think that we will be sharing voter records.”
“It also appears that the commission aims to address voter fraud,” he said. “By all accounts, incidents of actual voter fraud are extremely rare. I’m concerned that this type of investigation would lead to a denial of voter access.”
Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney is “carefully reviewing” the request, but said state law requires him to respond with non-exempt public records. Other information, such as driver’s license and Social Security numbers would require a court order.
“Indiana law doesn’t permit the Secretary of State to provide the personal information requested by Secretary Kobach,” Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said in a statement. “Under Indiana public records laws, certain voter info is available to the public, the media and any other person who requested the information for non-commercial purposes. The information publicly available is name, address and congressional district assignment.”
“Some voter registration information is a matter of public record,” said Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate in a statement. “However, providing personal voter information, such as Social Security numbers, is forbidden under Iowa Code. We will only share information that is publicly available and complies with Iowa Code.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is vice chairman of the commission, but even his office does plan to provide the last four digits of Social Security numbers because that information is not available to the public under Kansas law, spokeswoman Samantha Poetter said. All information that is publicly available will be provided.
“I do not intend to release Kentuckians’ sensitive personal data to the federal government,” Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said in a statement. “The president created his election commission based on the false notion that ‘voter fraud’ is a widespread issue. It is not.”
“We have received the letter and are reviewing with staff and our attorneys to determine our response,” said Meg Casper Sunstrom, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Tom Schedler. “Our priority, as we’ve demonstrated in the past, will always be to protect voter’s protected, personal information. This includes Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden name and date of birth. As you know, voter lists are publicly available by law but only include limited information including name, address and voter history. Voter history is not how a voter cast their ballot; it’s whether they participated.”
Sunstrom said Louisiana law prohibits the release of Social Security numbers.
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said the state won’t comply with the request, saying it conflicts with state law. Maine’s Central Voter Registration system is confidential under state statute, which also bans access to Social Security numbers, full birth dates, voter participation history and part affiliation.
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh called the request “repugnant” and said releasing the information is prohibited by state law.
“It appears designed only to intimidate voters and to indulge President Trump’s fantasy that he won the popular vote,” Frosh said in a statement. “Repeating incessantly a false story of expansive voter fraud, and then creating a commission to fuel that narrative, does not make it any more true. There is no evidence that the integrity of the 2016 election in Maryland – or any other state- was compromised by voter fraud.”
A spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin said the state’s voter registry is not a public record, and information in it will not be shared with the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said she’d comply in part with the request, handing over only publicly available information. The state won’t give Social Security or driver’s license numbers. It will provide birth years, but not birth dates.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, announced Friday he would not share the data with Trump’s commission.
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, said if he receives a request from the Trump commission, “My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from.” Hosemann also said: “Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”
In Missouri, Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said he is happy to “offer our support in the collective effort to enhance the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the system.” On Friday, Ashcroft spokeswoman Maura Browning said the state is providing only publicly available information. She said that means no Social Security numbers, no political affiliations and no details on how people voted.
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske says her office will provide public information only, but not Social Security numbers or how people voted. The state will turn over voter names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, party affiliation and turnout.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a member of the Trump commission, said his office will provide public information: names, addresses, party affiliations and voting history dating to 2006. Voting history includes whether someone voted in a general election and which party’s primary they voted in.
New Jersey announced Wednesday it would not make available any information to the panel that is not already public.
“To date, no information has been released nor will any future information be released that is not publicly available or does not follow the appropriate legal process for information requests,” Robert Giles, director of the New Jersey Division of Elections, said in a statement.
Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse-Oliver says she will never release personally identifiable information of New Mexico voters that is protected by law, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth. She also declined to provide information such as names and voting histories unless she is convinced the information is secured and will not be used for “nefarious or unlawful purposes.”
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday his decision not to comply with the commission’s request for information. He said state laws include safeguards to protect sensitive voting information and that the state “refuses to perpetuate the myth voter fraud played a role in our election.”
North Carolina’s elections board will provide voter data, but the records will not include personal information deemed confidential in state law, including dates of birth and Social Security numbers.
North Dakota, the only state that does not have voter registration, does require identification at the polls and does have a central database of voters, compiled with the help of state Transportation Department records and county auditors. However, the information can be used only for “election-related purposes” under state law, such as compiling poll books for elections. “We certainly can’t comply with that part of the request, but we are going to submit a response,” Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum said.
Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, issued a statement saying voter registration information is already public and available to the commission but that he will not provide the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers or their driver’s license numbers. He added, “In responding to the commission, we will have ideas on how the federal government can better support states in running elections. However, we will make it clear that we do not want any federal intervention in our state’s right and responsibility to conduct elections.”
A spokesman for the Oklahoma State Election Board said the state will not provide the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers. “That’s not publicly available under the laws of our state,” said Bryan Dean.
Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, a Republican, wrote a letter to the commission saying it could receive a statewide list of voters for $500, just like anyone else. However, he noted that he is barred legally from disclosing Social Security and driver’s license numbers.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, wrote a letter saying the state will not cooperate, but said the state will sell the commission the same data the public can purchase. It cannot be posted online, however.
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea says she won’t share some of the requested voter information, including Social Security numbers or information regarding felony or military status.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted on Monday that his state wouldn’t give up all the information requested, including Social Security numbers.
By law, the SC Election Commission maintains the list of registered voters for all 46 counties (1/3)
— Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) July 3, 2017
They are required to make the list available to the public upon request and Social Security numbers are never disclosed. (2/3)
— Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) July 3, 2017
Constitution ensures voters ballot choices will always be secret. Americans have died protecting this freedom (3/3) 🇺🇸🇺🇸
— Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) July 3, 2017
A spokesman for South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs says the state will not share voter information with the Trump commission.
“Although I appreciate the commission’s mission to address election-related issues like voter fraud, Tennessee state law does not allow my office to release the voter information requested to the federal commission,” said Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, a Republican.
Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos said Friday he will provide the commission public information and “protect the private information of Texas citizens.” Much of the information requested — including names, addresses, date of birth and party data — are already publicly available in Texas. Social Security numbers cannot be released under Texas law. Publicly available voter registration lists in Texas also do not include information about military status or criminal history.
Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox says he will send information classified as public, but Social Security numbers and dates of birth are protected.
Vermont’s top election official, Jim Condos, said Friday he is bound by law to provide the publicly available voter file, but that does not include Social Security numbers or birth dates. Condos said he must first receive an affidavit signed by the commission chairman, as required by Vermont law. He said there is no evidence of the kind of fraud alleged by Trump. “I believe these unproven claims are an effort to set the stage to weaken our democratic process through a systematic national effort of voter suppression and intimidation,” he said.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he has no intention of honoring the request.
“At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression,” said McAuliffe, a Democrat.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, says her office will send the commission names, addresses and birth dates of registered voters because they are public record. She will not send Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers or other information.
Secretary of State Mac Warner, a Republican, said in a statement that his office would review the request but is limited by state law in what it can provide. A spokesman for Warner told the Charleston Gazette-Mail the state, “would never release Social Security numbers.”
State Elections CommissionAdministrator Mike Haas issued a statement Friday saying most of the information in the state’s voter registration system is public, including voters’ names, addresses and voting history. The state does not collect any data about a voter’s political preference or gender, he said.
He said the state routinely sells the information to political parties, candidates and researchers. It would charge the presidential commission $12,500 for the data, the maximum amount allowed under agency rules, Haas said. State law doesn’t contain any provisions for waiving the fee, he said.
Wisconsin law allows the commission to share voter birth dates, driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers only with police and other state agencies, and the presidential commission doesn’t appear to qualify, Haas said.
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